Pittsburgh Union of Record Geeks electronic

Monday, December 03, 2007

Lou's Top 20 of 2007, Part 2

Here's the second in a four-part series revealing my choices for the Top 20 records of 2007. Feel free to submit your own list to purgegeeks@gmail.com and I'll strongly consider posting it.

11. Brandon Butler – Lucky Thumbs (Gypsy Eyes)

On his second solo outing, Butler—formerly the frontman for the unique D.C. prog/roots outfit Canyon—beefs up the sound from 2004’s sparse Killer On the Road. The band starts out rocking on the opening “Sparks,” adds an almost eerie intensity to “Heaven Help Us” and garagey swagger to “Throw Back Rockers,” and pours a whiskey-tinged honky-tonk jangle into Butler’s audible open wound on “Born Beautiful.” All this fits Butler’s mournful voice and songs perhaps even better than his great yet more ambitious former band.

12. Black Tie Revue – Code Fun (Gearhead)

Get out your Terrible Towels! Call me a homer, but I say BTR’s full-length debut is one of the best platters of pop-punk we’ve heard in quite some time. Just like their live shows, it’s nonstop energy, hooks, and flat out rock. I hope this makes some out of town lists, too, ‘cause there aren’t many bands better than this anywhere.

13. The Breakup Society – Nobody Likes A Winner (Get Hip)

More Pittsburgh! Or at least Pittsburgh by way of Phoenix. On B.S. songwriter/frontman Ed Masley’s first album as a former Pittsburgher, his producer and fellow ‘Burgh export Bob Hoag provides him with a much more expansive template than on 2004’s excellent James at 35. Hoag’s keyboards and background vocals capably color the hooky garage-pop herein. Highlights include the angsty title track, the infectious “Another Candlelit Night,” “By A Thread,” a piece of pop perfection only helped by having the legendary Scott McCaughey of the Young Fresh Fellows and Minus 5 at the vocal helm, and the uncharacteristically subdued “This Doesn’t Matter,” which is capped by an almost disarming barrage of Spector-ness.

14. Rosie Thomas – These Friends of Mine (Sing-a-long/Nettwerk)

Beautiful, melancholy love songs whose emotions come through perfectly in Rosie’s delicate, breathy voice. Some truly emotional and heartbreaking stuff here. And while the covers of R.E.M.’s “The One I Love” and Christine McVie’s “Songbird” seem a little obvious, it’s only because they suit her so well. Thomas’ numerous well-known collaborators (Sufjan Stevens and Denison Witmer, who co-produced, plus Damien Jurado, David Bazan, Jeremy Enigk, etc.) stay mostly in the background as she ably claims the focal point. Primarily acoustic and home-recorded, the album strays from the more commercial vibe of her previous two releases and is all the better for it. What Thomas brings to bear with her songs and voice doesn’t need to be dressed up. I hope she isn’t always as sad as she sounds, but I know I’m not always as sad as when I listen, so…

15. Dolorean – You Can’t Win (Yep Roc)

Dolorean’s Al James finds some middle ground between the dark textures of 2003’s Not Exotic and 2004’s more rootsy Violence In the Snowy Fields. Calling James’ voice monotonous would belie the great emotion it exudes; it’s just not the kind of emotion that warrants anything more than a somber coo. For sure, none of Dolorean’s records are going to provide any sort of pick-me-up. This is up there with the saddest stuff around. But everything here—whether simple or structured—is exceptionally well put together and presented. It’s almost comforting that despair can sound so good.


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